Editor’s Note: The following essay is part of our series we are calling “Voices from the New Afghanistan.” It was written by an impressive young Afghan man, Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwal, living in Kabul and working with Pax Populi Tutoring Services to advance his English language skills. In this essay he shares his views on current conditions in Afghanistan and his hopes for his country’s future. Sajid is particularly concerned with advancing peace in his country and the conditions facing the children of Afghanistan. He embodies many of the characteristics that leads us to feel confident that despite all the challenges facing Afghanistan, the country has a promising future ahead.
By Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwal
How I currently see my country
The author, Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwal. (Courtesy photo.)
We have seen some progress in Afghanistan in recent years. According to the Human Development Index my country has progressed from the second most underdeveloped nation in 2009, to 15th most underdeveloped nation in 2010, [ref]See: http://www.irinnews.org/Report/91015/In-Brief-Afghanistan-climbs-up-Human-Development-Index.[/ref] but the nation still faces huge challenges. The government of Afghanistan is full of corruption. Corruption seems to have spread to every small and great place of Afghanistan over the past 10 years. Some police officers, including those who have high posts in the police, are breaking the rules and doing whatever they want. This has made living in Afghanistan very hard. According to the 2011 Corrupt Perceptions Index of the anti-corruption organization, Transparency International (TI), Afghanistan ranks 180 out of 182 countries. [ref]See http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/.[/ref] Moreover, TI claims that the situation is worsening. According to Huguette Labelle, chairwoman of TI, although Afghanistan is a recipient of billions of dollars in international aid, local corruption absorbed over $1 billion of the $8 billion in foreign aid given in the past eight years. [ref]This appeared in the New York Times last July.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/opinion/billions-down-the-afghan-hole.html.[/ref]
The international community remains committed to Afghanistan’s development, having pledged over $67 billion at nine donor conferences between 2003 and 2010 [ref]See: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html.[/ref] and another $16 billion US pledged at the Tokyo Conference a couple of months ago [ref]http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/world/asia/afghanistan-is-pledged-16-billion-for-civilian-needs.html.[/ref] However, the World Bank also suggests that Afghanistan still lacks the capacity and infrastructure to ensure that aid is correctly invested.[ref]http://live.worldbank.org/afghanistan-aid-effectiveness-fiscal-outlook-need-further-attention.[/ref] Afghanistan needs people in government who are kind, who can feel and understand the problems of people, and who just work for Afghanistan, rather than for their own pockets and for those of their family. If a country has a strong economy, that country can make systematic plans that would be helpful to the future of the country and the well-being of the people. Unfortunately, however, Afghanistan doesn’t have a good economy. A lot of countries have contributed to Afghanistan’s economic development but still few changes have occurred in the Afghan economy.
We lack effective ways to help poor people. Most people who don’t have legs or hands are begging. It’s should be the responsibility of the government to help such people and to make a proper program for them to work and to earn money for their families. Currently in Afghanistan there are not many factories or industries that can provide jobs for the jobless. It seems to me that most people here are just thinking about themselves and think of Afghanistan as a playground in which they play for their own benefits. Very few politicians or others want to work for the future of Afghanistan and its people.
It is also very painful that some young Afghans are addicted to drugs. They have lost their way. Seeing them below the bridges of Kabul using drugs makes me very sad.
Children studying at their tent classroom in Bamiyan. (Photo by Robert McNulty)
Our educational system is not good enough. According to the Index Mundi statistics as of 2000, male literacy was 43.1% and female literacy 12.6%. [ref]See http://www.indexmundi.com/afghanistan/literacy.html. More recent statistics are not available.[/ref] and 70% of Afghans with disabilities receive no formal education at all. [ref]www.daa.org.uk.[/ref] Our education system is very old and must be reformed to meet 21st century standards. Most of the new generation of Afghanistan is open minded, struggling to advance their education and to do something for their future, but very few want to work for the benefit of Afghanistan.
For a long time, in Afghanistan there has been violence against education and women’s freedom, which is completely against Islam and against Human Rights. There is a nice saying that “if you educate a man, you educate a man. If you educate a woman, you educate a generation.” The education and participation of women in society is very important so they can overcome the many problems of life. Unfortunately, some opportunities that are provided to men are still not provided to women. But still I am very happy that the situation is improving and now many more of our Afghans girls have the chance to go to school than before. According to Oxfam, more 2.7 million girls are enrolled in school in 2012. [ref]http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2012-07-06/aid-must-work-better-afghans-next-decade.[/ref] Under the Taliban, girls were systematically denied any formal education. Women also have more opportunities to work and to help their people. But in some villages some people still actively undermine the rights of women.
Despite this and many other problems, Afghanistan is improving and people are becoming aware of what is right and what is wrong. Every day, more people now understand that peace can bring a happy life for us and can give us a better future.
What do I want for my future?
Without working hard to tackle the challenges within Afghanistan, we will not see a positive future for our country. A successful future will never come by sitting and waiting for it to just happen or by giving up. For that reason, my personal ambition is to advance my education in a productive environment where I can learn many new things.
After finishing high school I would like to go abroad and study politics and medicine with the intention of coming back to my country, Afghanistan, and work for the benefit of my fellow Afghans. I especially want to work for those who have suffered and witnessed great losses through the many years of war and conflict, and for those who continue to face the many daily problems associated with life in Afghanistan.
Afghan children at play. (Photo by Mohammad Sajid Arghandaiwal)
Children are understood to be the future of the country, but in Afghanistan, unfortunately, children can be seen working in streets of Kabul to feed their families. I want to change this situation and work to create conditions so that children can experience the happiness and security of a real childhood, with the right to an education to advance their future.
One of my personal goals is to write a book about Afghan children, with the aim of increasing local and international awareness regarding the conditions of many of our children who need better support if conditions are to improve here. We have a lot of talented children and I want to assist them to gain an education that will allow them to develop their potential for the benefit of creating a better future for Afghanistan and its people.
I want to establish an NGO which provides a network of support for Afghan children and their families in poverty by spreading a message of peace and human rights to all Afghans, while supporting the growth of education by providing a supportive learning environment for all Afghans.
In my future I want to be a person who is able to help turn the dreams of the poor people of Afghanistan into reality.
What do I want for my country’s future?
The first thing that I want for the future of my country is peace and up to the end of my life I will personally be trying my best to spread peace all over Afghanistan. My country has been devastated by more than three decades of war. The people are suffering from many problems: more than a million people have been killed and still every week many innocent people are being killed by suicide bombers and other unknown people. But Afghanistan must also have strong security capacities and the capabilities to prevent suicide attacks and to protect Afghanistan and Afghans from other forms of violence. Without strong security, education is not possible.
The second thing I want for my country’s future is educated Afghans. Many Afghans want to study but they don’t have the facilities to study. Education can bring us to the highest positions. However, for Afghans to be educated there must be a proper education system, one that gives us the ability to stand up to world standards. But education in Afghanistan is backward and so one example of the outcome of this is that many of our doctors are unqualified. Instead of curing their patients, they end up killing them by offering them the wrong treatments and medicines. The government of Afghanistan has to improve our educational situation. I want to see an Afghanistan that has professional teachers and a lot of universities with the capacity to educate people for reasons that go beyond making money. Childhood is a time for learning, for getting an education, and yet in Afghanistan, many children are working on the streets. Some are washing cars, some are selling gum or other inexpensive items, while others are simply begging for money for their families.
I also want to see the development of a government with people who are there to be of service to the people rather than [inappropriately] filling their pockets with the money earned by hardworking citizens. Corruption brings countless problems and difficulties to human society and the natural environment. We need to root out corruption from Afghan society.
Economic development is also essential for our country. A lot of people in Afghanistan are begging or working very hard for a very small amount of money. There is too much poverty everywhere — in villages, provinces and cities of Afghanistan. I want to see the day when there are busy factories across Afghanistan that provide different types of work for all those people who today are jobless and for the children who are the future of our country.
This is my dream: To see a peaceful Afghanistan with a good educational system, a strong uncorrupted government, and economic development so that our people can better develop to their potential.
- :: 10 Works Cited
- Length: 2356 words (6.7 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
International students travel all over the world to study different lands education systems. Many of them come here to the United States of America, the land of opportunity. Many of them believe that if they come here they will have a better chance of doing what they have always wanted to do. I was given an assignment by my teacher to interview an international student I got their input on what it is like to be an international student here in the United States of America. I met Sameer, my international student, through some high school friends that go to the same college as him in Tennessee. He was more then happy to tell me about what he is going through as a student in the United States. Not only did I learn about him, but his country as well. We will get to know more about Sameer and the country of Afghanistan. Focusing on the Economy of Afghanistan and how it has changed since the September 11, 2001 tragedy.
“Afghanistan too many Americans is a threat to them. People think that because of what some of the people did their all of Afghanistan is to blame. I am ashamed to see what some of the people from my country have done, but I am not ashamed to say that Afghanistan is my home country” Sameer tells me in my personal interview with him. “Alliance Doesn’t want to shift focus to Iraq…Bush Administration understood the alliance’s preoccupied with Afghanistan” (Slavin 10A). “You read it all over the news how bad Afghanistan has been since September 11, 2001” he adds. Sameer grow-up with his mother and father, and older brother. They all moved to the United States of America when Sameer was 10 years old. His father wanted his children to have the opportunity to get rich and be able to support their families. When they got here they quickly learned it was a lot harder for them to live and work in the land of opportunity. Sameer’s father had a hard time finding a job, but finally just took a job as a cashier at a local store. They lived in a small apartment until Sameer was 14 years old. This is when his father got the break they needed. He started to run and operate his own gasoline station in the town of Brentwood, Tennessee.
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They moved from their small apartment in the ghetto, to a rich, suburban neighborhood. Sameer is currently going to a technical college in the state of Tennessee and loves the education system here. His major there is business management, hoping to become a restaurant manager. Since his religion is Muslim he told me that sometime before he is 25 his family will give him an arranged marriage. He doesn’t mind it at all because that’s how he was raised. After college he is planning on staying here in the United States of America to build up his dream of owning his own restaurant. Now that we know a little about my international student I interview it is time to talk about where he lived.
Afghanistan is located in Central Asia, bordered by Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan. It is home to approximately 28,700,000 of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, Uzbek, and other ethnic groups. The main language spoken in Afghanistan is Afghan Persian, which is the official language of Afghanistan. Also about 99% of the countries religion is Muslim, which is broken down into two groups Sunnites and Shiites. “The Geography of Afghanistan, encompassing 245, 000 square miles, features variety of terrains” (Magnus Pg. 2). Most of Afghanistan is made up of rugged mountains and then plains in the North and Southwest. The country is known to be called, landlocked, because “the Hindu Kush Mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country”(World Factbook). This is why the climate is arid to semiarid, winters are cold and snowy, and the summers are hot and dry. There is not to much snow in the lowland desert areas in the southwest, but the snow season on average is in October to April. The wet season runs from late winter to early spring, but the country itself is usually very dry and arid as I mentioned before. Strong winds are seen throughout the year and cause sandstorms in the summer and extreme blizzards in the winter. Their land is very rich in mineral resources, which include coal deposits, copper, gold, silver, lapis, salt, natural gases, iron ore, sulfur, chrome, zinc, uranium, rubies and oil. Not only are minerals resources, but also their food products they grow. “Major sources of cash income are cotton, sugar beets, sugar cane, wool, and par excellence karakul skins” (Wilber Pg. 224). Now moving on from resources to some of the smaller things Afghanistan has to use. It may be a third world country, but they have communication and transportations just like we do in the United States of America, but not as commonly spread out there. Some of their communications are telephone, mobile phones, radio, television, and internet. Transportations involve railroads, highways, waterways, pipelines, ports and harbors, airports, and heliports. As you can tell there’s a lot about this small country. Now let’s see differences in lifestyles between Afghanistan and the United States.
In Afghanistan the men and women are treated differently and have different day to day activities. They are different from us since we are a free nation and do not discriminate against men and women. Men in Afghanistan are the money makers. They get up early every morning to go to work, or work at home in the fields and sale their goods at the local market. When you look at the men in the Afghanistan they are casual and very comfortable no matter what weather. The women in Afghanistan however, are treated in a lower class. “They say women are just for houses, we can’t go to school, to the office, to work” (Johnson pg. 45). Not only do they have to stay at home, they must take care of the children and the elderly. They cook and clean and make sure that the household is always in control. You know the men wear casual clothes, but the women’s clothing is not casual at all. They have to be wearing a scarf, trousers, and/ or a full length dress at all times. This makes it more difficult in weather conditions for the women. Now a typical day in the United States of America, however, is both men and women have the chance to work and/or stay at home. We have the freedom to do what we want and to wear what we want with in the laws. You can tell that Afghanistan is a lot different then us here in the United States of America. They also are a very religious country and go by their beliefs on how they should or shouldn’t live their lives. Here in the United States of America, we have the freedoms to do what we wish of ourselves. A lot of us don’t go by what our religion tells us to do, but by what we want to do and what we think is right. Another difference is that Afghanistan doesn’t have as much military support as the United States of America does. The have never been a very rich country and it’s hard for them to buy military equipment like we do. And ever since the September 11, 2001 attacks many countries have taken our side to fight off acts of terrorism. These were just three of the differences there are so many more, but even though there are a lot of differences, there are also some similarities between these two countries. One small similarity between the United States of America and Afghanistan is that our climates are alike. The Southern part of the United States of America is lined up with the country of Afghanistan. They have the same summer and winter seasons and are known to have really hot summers and really cold winters. Just like Afghanistan a lot of our southern United States doesn’t get to much snowfall. “The whole of the south of the USA is normally extremely hot from May to September, with the southwest usually being very hot and dry, and the southeast usually being almost unbearably hot and humid” (Grouptravel Network). Not a lot of people think they have much in common, so it was hard for me to find information on their similarities. Now that we know about Afghanistan, how does the United States of America and Afghanistan have anything to do with each other?
The history of Afghanistan and the United States goes way back. In 1955, Afghanistan asked for assistance from the United States government about our military. They wanted weapons from us, and training from our military men. President Eisenhower didn’t think that would be a good idea. “Every country was asking for hand-outs, and the line had to be drawn somewhere. Eisenhower decided to draw the line at Afghanistan” (Sloan). I read about one incidence where we had some United State Marine Guards in Afghanistan. They witnessed a radio tower being shot down by Afghans wanting to take control and have a new leader for their country. Since the country is so small, it relies on radio and television. So, whoever owned the radio station controls Afghanistan. After this the United States continued its friendship with Afghanistan, even though they know what was going on in the country of Afghanistan. “It was true that there were reports of fighting and killing out in the countryside…and would be fighting and killing for a thousand years more. This was nothing for the US to be concerned about. The important thing was to do business as usual with the enlightened leadership of Noor Mohammed Tureki and not to let anything get in the way of the friendly relations between the US and the Government of Afghanistan” (Sloan). The United States has really just not looking at what Afghanistan had been doing. They just put it under the rug, and it came back to us on September 11, 2001. After that tragic day the United States took action to stop the powers of Afghanistan and not give into their manipulations. “Rival Afghan warlords, responsible for much of the violence, are disarming only slowly…but modest progress” (Sharif 3A). After all you have learned about Afghanistan so far, I can now tell you about the economics of this third world country and how it has changed before September 11, 2001 and after.
Afghanistan is an extremely poor, landlocked country, highly dependent on foreign aid, farming and livestock raising, and trade with neighboring countries. Economic thoughts have played to political and military disturbances during more than two decades of war, including the nearly 10-year Soviet military occupation in Afghanistan, which ended in February 1989. During that conflict, one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan and Iran sheltering 4 to 6 million refugees. “The gross domestic product has fallen substantially over the past 20 years because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of trade and transport” (1 Up Travel). Severe droughts have added to the nation's difficulties in the years of 1998-2002. The majority of the population continues to suffer from lack of food, clothing, housing, medical care, and a shortage of jobs, problems made worse by political uncertainties. International efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were addressed at a Tokyo Conference for Afghan reconstruction in January 2002, when approximately $4.5 billion was pledged to the country. Of that $4.5 billion, approximately $900 million was directed to humanitarian aid - food, clothing, and shelter. The main concerns for reconstruction of Afghanistan was upgrading the education system, health, and sanitation facilities, providing jobs, enhancing administrative and security, agricultural, transportation, energy, and telecommunication. After that money, almost 2 million was returned to refugees of Afghanistan. One question comes to my mind, how has Afghanistan’s economy changed since the September 11, 2001 attacks? Its really simple, nothing has really changed. They are still in debt and even harder for them to pay off this debt now that so many countries are against it. “Ultimately, the creation of new industries will be vital to provide employment opportunities for young people whose only other option is to take arms” (Johnson Pg. 65).
Getting to know an international student has shown me a lot about the world and about its people. I had no idea about Afghanistan and what it was like as a country. I have to admit, I was mad at it when I found out about September 11, 2001. I didn’t want anything to do with it and I was so glad we went to war. Now that I am in college I see so many different cultures around me. I have learned to see people for their differences and not label them with their country. One of my best friends introduced me to Sameer, and I am so glad I meet him. He has opened my mind to cultures besides my own. I am glad I was given this assignment of getting to know an international student. The information I have learned will stay with me into the future and hopefully change some of my decisions I make about others with differences.
Work Cited Page
“1 Up Travel”. Afghanistan Economy. 1999. CIA Worldbook. 9 Dec, 2003
Durani, Sameer. Personal interview. 19 Oct. 2003.
“Grouptravel Network”. The Climate of the USA and Canada. 2000. Grouptravels online. 29 Nov. 2003 <http://www.grouptravels.com/usa_can/climate/climate.htm>.
Johnson, Chris. Afghanistan: A land in Shadow. United Kingdom: London. 1998.
Magnus, Ralph H. Afghanistan. Colorado: Boulder. 1998
Sharif, Mazar. “Rumsfeld examines Afghan progress.” St. Cloud Times 5 Dec. 2003: 3A.
Slavin, Barbara. “NATO: Afghanistan is ‘priority’.” USA Today 5 Dec. 2003: 10A.
Sloan, Mohammad Ismail. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN. 2 Dec. 2003 <http://www.samsloan.com/afghans.htm>.
Wilber, Donald N. Afghanistan: its people, its society, its culture. Connecticut: New Haven. 1962.
“World Factbook.” Afghanistan. 2003. Factbook Online. 3 Dec. 2003